Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Herbert Knotel

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Herbert Knotel

Born in 1893 in Berlin, then the capital of old Hohenzollern Prussia and that of Imperial Germany as a whole, Herbert Knotel was the son of renowned uniformologist and military historian Richard Knötel (1857-1914). The elder Knotel pioneered uniform art and in many cases drew from preserved examples whenever possible.

His father’s uniform books are classics that endures to this day as is his massive 1,000-plate Große Uniformkunde, which young Herbert assisted with.

Herbert found himself as a officer in the Prussian Army and, assigned to Hindenburg’s 1st Army was wounded at Tannenburg during WWI. He finished the war as a Hauptmann in a horse cavalry unit on the Eastern Front.

With the world turned upside down in 1919, he returned to Berlin and took up the family business, both expanding and preserving his father’s inherited work and producing original plates of his own while helping run the Berlin Zeughaus Museum.

He was meticulous, first sketching his art, then using watercolors for shading and fill work and finishing with acrylics.

Lancer of Berg by Herbert Knötel (From the Library of Tony Broughton)

Lancer of Berg by R. Knötel for reference (From the Library of Tony Broughton)

knotel Herbert Knotel4 Herbert Knotel3 Herbert Knotel2 gal_Balt1814_rifleman1a_lg 1b156ae6789d69a999b93242bca97bc8 tumblr_muj834Nx671qjgu38o1_1280

When the Soviets occupied Berlin in 1945, Knotel was commissioned to cover the uniforms of that force in an epic 50-plate set, drawing many from officers and enlisted he met from Zhukov’s Red Army. These were later combined with over 100 images of the Tsarist army uniforms to create a single volume.

The woman, seen on theatricals event in January 1946, probably frontline Artist

“The woman, seen on theatricals event in January 1946, probably frontline Artist”

“The commander of the Special Operations Group, who selected the watch for me and my wife”

“The captain of the Polish infantry unit as a part of the Soviet Army – 1945”

Herbert Knotel 25

(Dig the swim gear on the pioneer)

(Dig the swim gear on the pioneer)

Herbert Knotel 22 Herbert Knotel 21 Herbert Knotel 20 Herbert Knotel 19 Herbert Knotel 18 Herbert Knotel 17 Herbert Knotel 15 Herbert Knotel 14 Herbert Knotel 12 Herbert Knotel 11 Herbert Knotel 6

Knotel died in 1963.

A huge cross-section of his work, including the Soviet set, is maintained online at the Anne S.K.Brown collection.

The modern tome that best covers his (non-Soviet) work is Herbert Knotel’s German Armies in Color: As Illustrated in His Watercolors & Sketches by Andrew Woelflein and Napoleonic uniforms by Col. John Robert Elting.

Thank you for your work, sir.

One comment

  • Herbert Knotel painted about 50-60 German uniforms of WW2 in Post war Berlin. One set was for official US Government use. The second set commissioned by my father (then Capt Chester B. McCoid II) He paid Mr Knotel one pack of cigarettes a piece.

    The first set is lost to time. The second set (minus losses through gifting) is in my control and is to be auctioned at or auctioneer id # 9009. This auction will occur in the next 90 days (today is 28SEP2015

    I have done a fairly thorough search for similar Herbert Knotel and find nothing that approaches this water color originals other than the Soviet uniforms he painted in that same time frame.

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